By Mike Masnick
As the US seeks to set up its own “Great Firewall” by copying Chinese censorship techniques in the twin bills SOPA and PROTECT IP (PIPA), it appears that China is doing exactly as you would expect when you give a government the tools to censor the internet: it keeps ramping up the censorship. Specifically, it’s requiring anyone who uses the local equivalents of Twitter, like Sina Weibo, to register with their real names, which then have to be verified by the government. Then, they’re banning the posting of anything the government deems to be “harmful information.”
Now, I know that every time we compare SOPA/PIPA to the Great Firewall, the defenders of those bills twist themselves into contortions to explain why it’s totally different because US censorship is about “intellectual property” and Chinese censorship is about “political repression.” Yeah. Ok. But if you look at what China says, of course they don’t say it’s about political repression — they say it’s about “harmful information.” Kinda like SOPA/PIPA’s focus on “rogue sites,” right? It’s all in how you define it, but the fact is that they’re both forms of censorship, and when you open the door to that in the US, you don’t want to see where it ends.
And, of course, the State Department — despite all its rhetoric about “Internet Freedom” — can’t do a damn thing, because the second they say anything to the Chinese, the Chinese point to SOPA/PIPA and say: “Look, you consider copyright infringement to be harmful to the US. We consider people disrespecting our leaders as harmful to China. What’s the difference?” And, honestly, the State Department has no credible response. This is why we’ve been hearing from multiple sources that many people within the State Department are quite upset about SOPA/PIPA. Not only do they undermine online security, but they undermine a multi-year effort to push for more internet freedom abroad.